Shakespeare and Hamlet

--Maggie Li

William Shakespeare's Life and Times


  • Born on April 1526 in Stratford-upon-Avon in the United Kingdom
  • Third child of his parents, John Shakespeare, a leather merchant, and Mary Arden, a local landed heiress
  • No specific recording relating to William Shakespeare’s education. Based on the information available, people made assumption about his attendance of school—Grammar school.
  • Started his career as an actor on stage by 1592. It is assumed that he played few smaller roles of his own plays.
  • Started writing around 1590. He produced most of his work between 1589 and 1613.
  • Died on April 23rd, 1616 in Stratford-upon-Avon. The cause of his death is unknown.
  • His burial was registered on April 25th, 1616. His tomb lies beneath the floor of the Holy Trinity Church.
  • Most of Shakespeare’s plays were published in 1623, seven years after his death.

Some Fun Facts About William Shakespeare That Few People Know


  1. Shakespeare’s original grave marker showed him holding a bag of grain. Citizens of Stratford replaced the bag with a quill in 1747.
  2. Some of Shakespeare’s signatures have survived on original documents. In none of them does he spell his name in what has become the standard way. He spells it Shakespe; Shakspe; Shakspere and Shakespear.
  3. Shakespeare is the second most quoted writer in the English language – after the various writers of the Bible.

Shakespeare's Work

Hamlet's Plot

Video SparkNotes: Shakespeare's Hamlet Summary

Main Themes of Hamlet

  • The Impossibility of Certainty
  • The Mystery of the Death
  • The Nation As a Diseased Body

Details in Hamlet

Elsinore (where the story of Hamlet happens) is a medieval town, located on Zealand Island, right at the narrowest point of Øresund (The Sound), which is the strait between Denmark and Sweden.

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Revenge Tragedy

Hamlet is considered as a revenge tragedy. Revenge Tragedy is a kind of drama in which dominant motive is revenge for a real or imagined injury. This style of tragedy was popular in England during the late 16th and 17th century.

Character List

  • Hamlet the ghost—former King of Denmark, Princeton Hamlet’s father, Gertrude’s former husband, Claudius’s brother
  • Hamlet the prince—Princeton of Denmark, son of Queen Gertrude and former King Hamlet, nephew of current King Claudius
  • Claudius—the King of Denmark, Hamlet’s uncle, Old Hamlet’s brother, Gertrude’s current husband
  • Gertrude—the Queen of Denmark, wife of old Hamlet and current King Claudius
  • Ophelia—daughter of Polonius, sister of Laertes, beautiful young woman whom Hamlet love.
  • Horatio—Hamlet’s close friend
  • Polonius—The Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’s court, father of Ophelia and Laertes
  • Laertes—son of Polonius, brother of Ophelia
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-- 2 courtiers, former friends of Hamlet from Wittenberg, summoned by Claudius and Gertrude to discover the cause of Hamlet’s strange behavior.